Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

20 January, 2013

When fun becomes a grind
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 3:43 PM
(This post has been viewed 11813 times.)

One recurring complaint of MMO players is the "grind". It's interesting taking a look at the history of MMOs, because it becomes obvious that it's mostly player perception that determines what is a grind. Every mechanic that people deride as a grind started out as something fun. In fact, sometimes it is a particularly new or novel feature that eventually becomes the dreaded grind.

Let's take a look at how something fun devolves into a grind.

Does GW2 have grind?

I started thinking about this topic again when GW2 fanatic Ravious over at Kill Ten Rats posted about dynamic events in the game. He lamented the lack of variety, particularly as he was completing the daily quests that require 5 events be completed per day. I made a comment observing that it is interesting to see how fast "something that changes the nature of the game/" has become "something optimized and ground out for achievement".

The comment got Ravious thinking and he wrote a followup post examining the grinding aspects of daily quests in GW2. He writes that he primarily plays the way he wants, but then at the end of his session he finds a way to complete his daily quest requirements. I recognized this, as I often do the same thing in the game.

And, while the daily quests might not feel quite like a grind yet, it probably will in the future. Let's take a look at a few other things that have turned from fun into a grind.

Grinding through history

Let's go to the grandaddy of the DIKU-inspired MMOs: EverQuest. When it launched, it created a sensation. People loved it. A lot of people who had not had experience with online games descended into the nascent world of Norrath and had fun with the world. The sheer breadth of the world was awe-inspiring, even to some people who had experience with online games. Few people worried about having to "grind", because everything was new and interesting. People were fumbling around, and they had fun because it was so different than previous experiences.

But, as time went on, the novelty wore off. Instead of going around adventuring, people tried to figure out the best way to accomplish their goals. They'd go to places to get the most experience per hour. Players would go camp certain locations to get gear they wanted (sometimes to sell for real money on eBay). Eventually the fun of exploring around an area was optimized into a series of specific actions, and after that we see people complaining about "the grind".

Later, you have World of Warcraft. In WoW, they introduced a new innovation: the quest log! Instead of just mindlessly killing critters, NPCs in town would direct you to places to accomplish little tasks. In fact, killing monsters was a terribly inefficient way to level. But, again, we see that people wanted to optimize the process, and Blizzard was willing to help players do so. The most notable expression of this was QuestHelper, which allowed players to figure out the optimal path to complete a quest without having to explore the zone; this system of showing where quest objectives were located was later was incorporated into the game client itself.

What makes a grind

As I've written before, the core of the grind is repetition. But, as I wrote in that article: all games are repetition. The grind settles in when you're done learning the game's patterns and everything is just an exercise in executing a known plan. Especially when you just want to get the goal and know how to get there, but all that remains is the hours of activity that you've come to see as a grind.

But, there's a step in between: optimization. Efficiency is the enemy of fun, especially in an Achiever-focused game. Optimizing means learning about the game and figuring out the best way to do things. But, so once you know the best way to do things, you get bored. Any activity that you know how to do well and that has a predictable outcome is going to be seen as a grind. The problem is that Achievers will generally seek to optimize their play, so they eternally make the game less fun for themselves.

Daily events

So, perhaps you can see why I'm concerned about the optimization of dynamic events that Ravious talked about. Since camping monsters and directed questing have now become grinds, the dynamic events in GW2 were supposed to be the next evolution. But, if they're becoming optimized just a few months after launch, to the point where people are asking for more updates, this bodes poorly for them being a viable system for other games to adopt, as it seems to have the same flaw as other methods that rely on hand-crafted content.

It's also interesting to note that ArenaNet has said they're going to be changing how the dailies work in the game. Instead of having a static list, you'll be able to choose from different options that will change during the day. This should hold off on players optimizing the game exactly for at least a little while. Will it hold in the long term? I'm not sure.

How to avoid the grind

In the spirit of trying to be helpful, let me brainstorm a few ways that ArenaNet could make the dynamic events avoid feeling like a grind in short order. As always, these are made without knowledge of how their particular system is set up, and they could be irrelevant or damn near impossible to implement.

  1. Keep letting players just play. One very popular philosophy that ArenaNet has articulated is that players should be able to just play the way they want. GW2's daily quests are nice, because you get rewarded for doing what you'd probably already do anyway. It just takes a bit of extra effort to do a bit more at the end of your session. Trying to force players to go out of their way to do new events will probably not be very popular, even if it would make things harder to optimize in the short term.
  2. Make events more varied. Adding more events is the easiest way. Putting some effort into creating "template" events where details could be filled in with nearby elements might be nice. For example, the event where you escort a girl back home is pretty neat. Take this basic template and apply it to other locations. Of course, this is hard given that GW2 so heavily relies on voice acting for a lot of the events, particularly this one with the little girl's cries.
  3. Make events less predictable. Throw a curve ball every once in a while. Maybe have an event happen in different places instead of the same place all the time. Or have what seems like the same event, but with a different goal; sometimes you don't want to kill the broodmother drake, maybe this time you have to lure it off the path. Instead of having only one event follow up for a success/failure, maybe add in a few variations so that people doing an event more than once don't feel it becoming rote. Again, templates might work well here if the events could pull in other information from the surrounding area.
  4. Let events have more success conditions. One thing I like about hearts is that you often have multiple things you can do to fill up the meter. You can often kill stuff, but you can also maybe collect items, or clean up graffiti, etc. Maybe have some events where there are a few different ways to accomplish the goal.
  5. Improve existing events. It's frustrating when you get an escort event and you fail because this particularly one won't let you revive the escort, like the others. One in particular happened to me last night as I was finishing up Fireheart Rise: I got a bit ahead of the escort and got trapped in a wall when the ceiling collapsed. Enemies surrounded the escort and killed it, making me fail the quest. Sucks when the environment causes you to fail instead of your own actions.
  6. Have solo solutions to group events. It's really unfortunate when you have a group event happen in what feels like an empty zone. Bosses intended for groups will eat you alive if you get too close. Solo events seem to scale up nicely when multiple people show up, why not let group events scale down if only one person is in the immediate area? A few events do this already, where you can go trigger some NPCs to help you. A few more clever things like this would be nice. This would allow more players to experience more events.

So, what are your thoughts? How do you think that ArenaNet could do to make dynamic events feel less like something to optimize and therefore feel like a grind? What about avoiding grinding in general?

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20 Comments »

  1. To quote you:
    "So, what are your thoughts? How do you think that ArenaNet could do to make dynamic events feel less like something to optimize and therefore feel like a grind? What about avoiding grinding in general?"

    People grind for a reason, they want something. For the daily karma juice bottle etc. it's doing 5 events. The planned changes to achievements (making them more "meaningful") will make people work/grind towards them.

    So how to make events better... I am afraid it is wasted if the events are done for a purpose. The events in itself should have purpose and make me want to do them. At least once - for "world completion". They are quite samey after a while and I often wonder why I should do an event I already did if I don't need it for the daily. Because whatever you do, the event resets to the very same situation within less than 30 minutes if not faster most of the time.

    ArenaNet designers were talking a lot about events affecting the world - so I think a world changing a lot more depending on the result of previous events would do that. Longer event chains with results that affect the server maybe. People need a good/proper reason to do events, other than doing 5 for a daily quest.

    I think this is a general GW2 problem; I logged in yesterday only to log out, wondering what I could or wanted to do in GW2. I find that quite fascinating, GW1 kept me entertained for YEARS, GW2 struggles to do that already after launch. Might be because I changed, got old, but I am afraid it's largely to blame on GW2.

    Comment by Longasc — 20 January, 2013 @ 4:25 PM

  2. You don't fancy getting a job at ANet, do you? Those suggestions would enhance my gameplay significantly, whereas what I foresee ANet doing looks like it will do the exact opposite.

    Ravious is an excellent commentator and analyzer. He's been boosting GW2 for a lot longer than I have. He's also much more of an Achiever than I am, though (not that I give a huge amount of credence to those somewhat arbitrary categories) and I feel that's a trait that can sometimes get in the way of just having fun in MMOs. One of the best things about GW2 so far has been it's openness to any number of playstyles but I fear that the dev team are now beginning to bear down on Achievers as their focus group, which doesn't bode well for me.

    When it comes to "grind" I'm fond of quoting The Fall: "We dig repetition". Well, you can never go wrong quoting Mark E Smith. If I like doing something once, chances are I'll always like doing it. My boredom threshold is so high it has snow on. I also relish simplicity. Given reign in MMOs I would always prefer to level by just wandering about and killing stuff. All those innovations you list above dilute and detract from the pure joy of roaming an open fantasy world, meeting amazing creatures, killing them and stealing their stuff.

    I'm willing to bet that if MMOs allocated exactly equal xp to all forms of activity, the most common way of progressing would be arbitrary slaughter. If you got a fixed amount of xp per hour of active play, few would bother doing quests at all. People do them because they give more xp and that's that. Ok, if you make quests as entertaining as The Secret World that changes, but then you are verging on interactive fiction. Frankly, I'd prefer TSW without the combat - just go from quest to quest to quest and watch them like television.

    Anyway, the upshot is that I like "grind" and I don't like "story". Make killing mobs worth my while and I'll happily kill them all day and all night. I used to think otherwise but I'm older and wiser now and I'm not ashamed to admit I was wrong.

    Comment by bhagpuss — 20 January, 2013 @ 4:27 PM

  3. "the core of the grind is repetition". This is true under a fairly predictable set of circumstances, notably the much-touted "end-game". When you've reached max level/max skills/max whatever, there's not a whole lot left, other than running repeatables, doing the weekly raid, that kind of stuff.

    Until players reach "end-game", most of the games I've played recently have enough quest arcs to keep you occupied without feeling bored. Or if you're bored running this-that, there's usually something else you can do to refresh yourself.

    One game I am playing right now (for the past 5 years) is LOTRO, which has a dreaded grind is LOTRO in the form of deeds: kill 100 mutant mice to get a title, then kill 350 more to get a virtue... Seems like people in LOTRO leave their deeds until they've maxxed out, which gives them a perceived variety of tasks to do at "end-game": do your dailies, work on a deed, then attend this weeks raid. But you still hit that grind.

    I want to point out the free-to-play/pay-to-play Korean grindfest games, where the typical process is "kill 100 of this, now kill 200 more, oh now kill 300 more, hey you've levelled up, now kill 100 of the next tier...". I say those are "grindfests" but they're popular. I think most of the popularity is the social aspects, where once you hit end-game (and even during the levelling process), you can customize your character in ways that big-ticket games don't really have. The side-games (sandboxes) of decorating your house, collecting new cosmetics, can keep players occupied.

    You didn't bring up M59 with regards to "the grind", but that was 100% grind - kill stuff, level skills, repeat. But back then, it worked. Did we grow up? Or did we lose something? Another aspect of M59 which helped alleviate possible boredom was the dynamic events in the form of the faction wars. There aren't many games now that have a similar mechanism; one which had world consequences, not just something that you participate in with no real gain or loss.

    To answer your question, I'd go with option #3, make events less predictable. Let's not have 100 people hanging around on Tuesday at 7pm server time, waiting for the rare elite to spawn, because that's when and where he normally spawns. Dynamic events, things that happen without warning, things that can have world consequences. If you're on the other side of the world when an event triggers, and you don't get there to participate, then well, that's kinda too bad. No "well, I'll wait an hour till it respawns".

    Comment by azog — 20 January, 2013 @ 4:32 PM

  4. The term "grind" originated in the old days, but it has a very different meaning in the modern MMO.

    In a game that only offers the "farming mobs in group" form of grind - yes, up to and including old EQ1 hundred player raids - everyone either likes farming mobs in groups or else they quit. Modern triple-A MMO's try to cater to anyone with a wallet - solo players, people who want to craft without ever killing a mob, raiders, PVP'ers, etc. Today's grind all-too-often means the misguided use of incentives to "encourage" players to use all of this other stuff that modern developers need to throw into their games.

    (To use a current WoW example but with made-up numbers, if we imagine that 80% of players are primarily solo and the other 20% think solo content is trivial and chore-like, Blizzard will still go ahead and implement daily quest rewards that send the raiders and PVP'ers off to solo.)

    I get that, for almost all business models, you are eventually going to make more money if the player continues playing. I understand why developers are hesitant to let any content go underutilized, especially if it requires a certain baseline number of players to function and that number of players aren't showing up voluntarily.

    The problem is that the player who goes and does daily quests because they can get a +8 item level upgrade does not magically start liking daily quests just because you offered up a reward they wanted badly enough. It works in the short term, but in the long term you get burnout, over-optimization, and incidentally often end up nerfing the content for the people who actually wanted to do it in order to make it less onerous on the people who will still resent being told to do it even with the change.

    (Case in point: WoW's leveling exp curve. They spent all that time last expansion redoing all of the content in the 1-60 game, but it's almost impossible to use any of it because you can't get through an entire zone without outleveling the content.)

    Comment by Green Armadillo — 20 January, 2013 @ 5:11 PM

  5. Longasc wrote:
    I find that quite fascinating, GW1 kept me entertained for YEARS, GW2 struggles to do that already after launch. Might be because I changed, got old, but I am afraid it's largely to blame on GW2.

    Yeah, it's interesting that they changed the type of game so much. Then again, they've sold a lot of boxes up front, so for their business plan they are doing well for now. We'll see what this means in the long term. As I've commented before, I find it interesting that things seem to be so fast forward.

    bhagpuss wrote:
    You don't fancy getting a job at ANet, do you?

    Naw. It's just the game I've been playing more and that people are talking about. So, it's a ready example most people reading this will likely understand.

    Although, if ArenaNet wanted to contact me about consulting, that might be an interesting discussion. :)

    When it comes to "grind" I'm fond of quoting The Fall: "We dig repetition".

    Yeah, if you read my previous post on the grind, I talk about how I was completely fixated on using the simple candle to discover all the secret doors behind trees in The Legend of Zelda. I enjoyed it then, but not sure I would now.

    I'm willing to bet that if MMOs allocated exactly equal xp to all forms of activity, the most common way of progressing would be arbitrary slaughter.

    I'm not sure sure. I think questing would give a lot more variety, so people might gravitate toward that. I think a lot of the old EQ1 vets would probably be happy settling in and slaughtering camps, though. :)

    azog wrote:
    You didn't bring up M59 with regards to "the grind", but that was 100% grind

    I don't use M59 examples quite so much, as I haven't played the game in a few years now, so I don't know the current state. And, a lot less people relate to M59 examples than to GW2.

    But, I think it's a bit unfair to call it 100% grind. For people who have played for a long time and know the game like the back of their hand, the thrill of exploration is gone. But, to a new person (who doesn't just get murdered by a random), it can be kind of exciting. :)

    Green Armadillo wrote:
    The term "grind" originated in the old days, but it has a very different meaning in the modern MMO.

    Yeah, I didn't want to turn this into a complete history lesson. The term "grind" didn't have quite the negative connotation it does today.

    Case in point: WoW's leveling exp curve.

    Yeah, I think one of the secret of WoW's longevity is that they continually tweaked the game to make it more accessible to a wider audience (mostly read that as getting easier). At some point, though, you lose people who think the game gets too easy. I think for several years they were able to keep adding more people with accessibility than they lost from lack of challenge, but that changed a few years ago around the Cataclysm expansion. Not being able to actually complete a zone before outleveling it is a symptom of that policy. Of course they can't change it now, otherwise they would lose the people who stayed around because it was easier.

    Very much between the rock and a hard place.

    Comment by Psychochild — 20 January, 2013 @ 9:11 PM

  6. On ArenaNet's part, I think adding more events is the most constructive thing they could do. It would improve the variety and novelty factor, and more importantly the frequency of events.

    Often when I want to knock out 5 events in quick succession, I run over to one of the starting zones and do a bunch of the newbie ones. There's no risk of failure, they finish very fast and either have a couple short events chained together or are on frequent repeat loop. ANet can't reduce the frequency of these events (too much anyway), for fear of having true newbies completely lost without guidance and direction and the low leveled nature makes farming for loot/profit not desirable anyhow.

    While the above optimizes 5/5 daily event completion very well, it also got boring very quickly because of the self-limited subset of events and all out focus on the end result, rather than the process.

    Which leads to my other point: the player is also at fault and must also contribute to his own perception of whether there is grind or no grind. ANet can only do so much. What can players do? Depends on each player. Purposefully stopping, slowing or taking a break can cut down on the repetition = boredom factor. If that is unthinkable, then find an overall purpose that counteracts the feeling of grind, like this is step 4 on the 99-step plan to this awesome legendary weapon / hall of monument goal, and I want to do it, so it is not "I am being forced to do this" grind. Or purposefully choose a lateral path - making an alt, spending time in WvW, delving into sPvP or whatever - that feels interesting and meaningful.

    Different players can tolerate different kinds of repetition: personally if I make myself repeat fractals every day, I'll become bitter and go berserk in short order, so I never ever grind fractals. Conversely, I can sit for an hour killing the same mobs in one spot with magicfind and food and hum happily doing it. Know yourself and don't do the stuff that makes you scream.

    On ANet's part, what they can do is make these different activities all viable to get to the same goal in the end, be it gold or Ascended gear (eventually, it's coming, so they say.)

    If GW1 was ungrindy, that just meant there were a lot of viable lateral options/content to do at any one time that the player didn't think was grindy. Anet can provide the former, the player must provide the latter.

    Comment by Jeromai — 20 January, 2013 @ 9:22 PM

  7. I feel that there's a balance to be had between events that the game initiates (ie. dynamic events, or regular events) and events that the player initiates.

    I'm also not going to have a screed about daily quests. I quite like the general idea myself. (I love the 'kill 15 different mobs' daily btw -- it encourages exploring but leaves lots of freedom in how you want to do it.)

    But the issue (as I get it) in GW2 at the moment is that you are likely to finish all parts of the daily except the events and then be left hanging around waiting for the game to do random stuff so that you can complete the daily (or go to one of the starter zones because they have more frequent events). If enough events popped while you were doing the rest of the daily for you to get those ticked off then people would be happier.

    So solutions I'd be wondering about are either more ways for players to initiate events, more chances of events in low pop zones outside the starting zone (I loved your template event idea), or maybe some way to point players at the more event heavy zones (which don't have to be the same every day).

    Comment by Spinks — 20 January, 2013 @ 10:07 PM

  8. Maybe I'm weird on this, but for me the daily in GW2 is the one thing that stops me from truly enjoying the game. I may have a 3-hour window to play games, so I fire up GW2, play for an hour, see that my daily is almost done except for one or two points, so I go to some starter zone to finish it, and then I feel like I'm done for the day. I was having fun, and suddenly I'm feeling like there's no point to keep playing because whatever I do could be best used for next day's daily set of achievements. So I end up playing GW2 just one hour and playing other games the rest of my time.

    It may be the ultimate anti-grinding idea, but I wouldn't mind if it let me play as I want instead of directing me to play in a certain way...

    Comment by Ragni — 20 January, 2013 @ 10:59 PM

  9. This post got me thinking about longevity in general: Socializers and Killers get content from the other players, either hanging out with them or competing with them. Achievers can be motivated to repeat content by the grind, but they'll get bored of it eventually. But if we define endgame as what you do when you've done everything once, and an Explorer as someone who's motivated by doing things for the first time, does that make an Explorer endgame an oxymoron?

    A personal anecdote that probably supports bhagpuss' idea of Arenanet shifting towards catering to the Achievers: I consider myself an Explorer with a side of Achiever, and when I got my main to 80 one of the goals I set for myself was the Dungeon Master achievement, doing each of the 34 different explorable dungeon paths once. But since then, I've mostly dropped that in favor of grinding Fractals of the Mists for the Fractal Capacitor, which requires running the same (with some random variation) dungeon 28 times. Still a dungeon-related goal, but an Achiever-oriented one rather than an Explorer-oriented one- and mostly because it's the path of least resistance.

    As a sidenote, the Skritt burglar is a nice example of a "template" event: taking the same core behaviors that aren't quite the same as other events and dropping it in a bunch of places with relatively minor tweaks. They even added a set of achievements that encourage finding it multiple times.

    Comment by Aspeon — 21 January, 2013 @ 12:28 AM

  10. I think it's just human nature to optimize things, and I'm not sure there's a way around it. We can hope that the developer has decent metrics and can see where the player base stands in terms of content completion and engagement at the very least. Anyway...

    Blizzard did a pretty good job with the dailies in MoP. They are all tied to faction reputation (which I think is a great system lost from the early days of MMOs - GW2 could make use of similar. TOR is adding one. Anyway...) each faction has a variety of daily quests so that you hardly ever get 2 days in a row of the same thing. And in reality, it's only about 10-15 days of actual dailies to take any one rep to Exalted.

    But most importantly I think how they wove a story into the reputation march was brilliant. For me, it removed the "grind" notion completely because I wasn't just trying to reach the next level of progression for explicit rewards - I was working toward opening up the next part of the story. In reality, this is similar to how GW2's personal story works. Except here, it's multi-faceted and ties into the game world from many different perspectives. It works well.

    So for theme park games, Blizzard is once again on top of the situation. Given that they have to have repeatable content to sustain players while new content is developed, it's a good system for mitigating the feeling of "grind".

    Making dynamic events more dynamic in GW2? Create 2000 of them, and only show the players half of them at any one time. Perhaps there's an event that only goes off once a week... at a random time. Players will hear stories of it, and perhaps start playing more in that area in hopes of catching it. But in reality as Brian said, there really isn't a huge step forward to be had from questing.

    Comment by Lethality — 21 January, 2013 @ 7:10 AM

  11. Great post! Thanks for writing it. Lots more good stuff here. :) I agree with your suggestions, and I hope they constantly improve in those areas too.

    Comment by Ravious — 21 January, 2013 @ 7:26 AM

  12. ginding may be a pain but if the difficulty is enough it can be fun its what i enjoyed about ffxi in the old days when you lvled or finished a story section not the full storyline even it was a acclomplishment. but now they gimmped the game so much its not fun and i have noticed when a game gets gimpped people get rude. i had great hopes for gw2 but no its way to easy it turned into a grind in like a month. i wish someone would design a game as indepth as ffxi was before it was gimped. i was in a linkshell of over 100 ppl and all of us quit withing a year of the gimping of the game we stay intouch many of us tried gw2 and seldom play thet we are all just looking for a new challange. there has got to be something out there for gamers that want to EARN what they get, as opposed to lazy, entitled players. any suggestions?

    Comment by asp — 21 January, 2013 @ 12:21 PM

  13. Grind is definitely an issue in MMOs that will not go away. As was mentioned grinding used to just be a descriptor, now it is a derogatory term. As such, what one person considers a grind may not be for another.

    In most of your suggestions, I see a common theme: more "chaos" - more unpredictability. I think this is the path that MMOs need to follow in order to keep the games exciting.

    Bhagpuss said that he likes the simple grind of wandering around and killing things. I don't know that I agree with his comment that people would prefer arbitrary slaughter to any other form of gaining XP. I think that people used to enjoy it because it was new and they didn't have any other options. And people who were introduced to MMOs in that time probably look back with fond memories. That doesn't mean that people who didn't have that experience would enjoy it. Once they added Archeology to WoW, I often played entire levels on my main just doing Archeology. I didn't even bother to kill anything around me - only if the mob attacked me. But maybe there aren't a lot of people who would be interested in doing things the way I do. I certainly hope Bhagpuss is wrong so the forms of gaming I enjoy don't fall by the wayside.

    Green Armadillo mentions that games make options that "encourage" players to do things they don't really want to do. I often wonder why people do anything in games that they don't really want to do. From grinding to PvP, I don't care what kind of imaginary reward is in it for my character - if I don't like doing it I just don't do it. As for WoW's XP curve, being an altoholic I actually enjoy coming back to an area with a new character and finding something that I didn't find the first time through. I don't think "too much content" will ever be a true negative point to a game. If I was a true explorer type, I would see all the content even if I was not getting XP for it.

    Comment by Djinn — 21 January, 2013 @ 7:53 PM

  14. Before I proceed . . .

    Guild Wars 1 had more than a fair share of grindiness in it, most notable for the achievements or trying to get those coveted Obsidian Shards or Globs of Ectoplasm. Nobody has ever denied that the "Obsidian Armor" path was anything *BUT* a grind, and it was mostly an optional one. (Fun fact, those were highly-limited and randomized drops in either of two areas where it was expected the group of 8 players would be at the top of their game . . . or running specific builds tailored to blow through content as quick as possible before lining up for another run.)

    Similarly, much of Guild Wars 2's "grind" is optional, with two exceptions. Seeking those Exotic and higher pieces of equipment to put your statistics at the highest you can get them (something which, honestly, is *SLIGHTLY* wasted) or if you're trying to make money to afford purchasing a particular object (what that is doesn't matter, it's the fact you need money you don't have that matters).

    The Daily Achievements can be knocked out in half an hour or less if you go to a starter area, and even if you don't . . . anywhere *not* in the top range of zones will still likely take you less than an hour. The stickiest bit of them is the "Kill Variety" since some zones just don't have 15 types to kill (Orr zones often only have like five, maximum).

    The MONTHLY Achievements? Those can be grindy as anything if you're not active in the areas chosen for it that month. Some of this had been alleviated by the last three monthly (October, November, December) all using the monthly big event to flesh out half the Achievements . . . but September? "Experience Survivor" was on there, which was "earn 50,000 XP without dying" . . . maybe I missed a zero. THAT was difficult to manage.

    And talking about grind outside of Guild Wars 2, two games I have been playing much of lately which do grind? Minecraft and Monster Hunter. Minecraft's grind is a less annoying flavor since the idea is that you need to dig and explore to find the resources you want/need. If you want to get iron to start a minecart rail travel system? You're going to need a lot of iron, and people have come up with means of completely making the grind trivialized by arcane methods ("Iron golem grinders").

    Monster Hunter? If you've not played it, let me sum it up in this paragraph. You are a person who hunts monsters. The game is subdivided into missions you take at your leisure and each one has a target. More often than not, this is to go find and kill (or capture if possible) a massive behemoth who can . . . will . . . kill you without much effort if you get sloppy. The game is almost entirely what other games would call "boss fights", and just about every particular monster has its own behavior patterns. (Recent games have done much to try to ensure this.) The grind comes in when you need to get armor or weapons . . . which is made from either materials you harvested in the field or parts of monsters you killed or captured. All of this is governed by . . . the RNG. And each weapon or armor set will require one item for making it which is a 5-10% drop rate. Welcome to the grind, your tolerance for it will decrease at a rate inverse to how much fun you have killing the particular monster.

    Comment by Kereminde — 22 January, 2013 @ 4:22 AM

  15. Re: Djinn

    "In most of your suggestions, I see a common theme: more "chaos" - more unpredictability. I think this is the path that MMOs need to follow in order to keep the games exciting."

    I sure hope not. Look, I like the concept of unpredictable event timing so you might not always see it available . . .

    . . . but you run the risk of making the RNG dictate how much people can enjoy out of your game. I don't think that's fun for the people who manage to always miss the event, or spend hours on hours of free time trying to be available for when it starts only for it not to happen. I remember the "spawn camps" of EverQuest and the following:

    - Find the spot where the monster spawns.
    Path A: The target has a placeholder and spawns a % of the time.
    - Time the respawn timer, roughly.
    - Kill the placeholder if the desired target didn't come up.
    - Kill the target if it comes up.
    - Did it drop what you were after? If no, repeat from the top.
    Path B: Long timer, guaranteed spawn.
    - Figure out the last time the target was killed.
    - Do the math on when it SHOULD be up.
    - Be there early in case your time was off, OR sit at the location if you have nothing better to be doing.
    - Kill the target when it comes up.
    - Did it drop what you were after? If no, repeat from the top.
    Path C: The drop you are after is tradeable.
    - Get your money, go to East Commonlands and start looking.

    Comment by Kereminde — 22 January, 2013 @ 4:28 AM

  16. Djinn wrote: In most of your suggestions, I see a common theme: more "chaos" - more unpredictability. I think this is the path that MMOs need to follow in order to keep the games exciting.

    Kereminde responded: I sure hope not. Look, I like the concept of unpredictable event timing so you might not always see it available . . .

    . . . but you run the risk of making the RNG dictate how much people can enjoy out of your game. I don't think that's fun for the people who manage to always miss the event, or spend hours on hours of free time trying to be available for when it starts only for it not to happen.

    Random does not mean that either there is an event or there's nothing. What about the concept of a series of events available in a given area. The unpredictable part would be which event occurs.

    Certainly any tactic employed in a game can be employed well or badly. The idea of unpredictability doesn't have to be employed badly as you suggest.

    Comment by Djinn — 22 January, 2013 @ 10:23 AM

  17. I am playing both LOTRO and GW2 right now. as a non-achiever type, I have a hard time understanding what is grindy about GW2; never has there been more variety, more options of quest completion and exp gain, more random and 'dynamic' things happening in the world around you as in GW2. sure, it's still questing and bound to repeat itself at some point - but it's worlds and galaxies apart from the tiresome fetch&delivery backtracking routine I am doing in LOTRO. LOTRO has a grind and it's truly overwhelming. there is not much I can do about it despite my explorer playstyle, unless I ignore quests entirely. if I do that however, the only other way to advance and gain exp is slaying mobs.

    from that POV I believe the grind is in fact a combined product of or dynamic between game design and player mindset. I encounter very little to no grind in GW2 because thats not how I play the game. I don't care for the achievement tab and I am not forced to solve riddles or quests in just one way or the most efficient way. I can stray, I can ignore and replace. GW2 gives me choice to grind or not to grind. LOTRO doesn't. so maybe you could say that any MMO can be turned into a grind by a certain player - but not all grinds can be avoided no matter the player. if that makes sense. :)

    Comment by Syl — 25 January, 2013 @ 2:15 AM

  18. This week in Guild Wars 2

    [...] Psychochild’s Blog — When fun becomes a grind. “One recurring complaint of MMO players is the “grind”. It’s interesting taking a look at the history of MMOs, because it becomes obvious that it’s mostly player perception that determines what is a grind. Every mechanic that people deride as a grind started out as something fun. In fact, sometimes it is a particularly new or novel feature that eventually becomes the dreaded grind. Let’s take a look at how something fun devolves into a grind.” [...]

    Pingback by GuildMag — 25 January, 2013 @ 10:22 AM

  19. [General Gaming Links] Events, ‘I quit’ posts, TESO, Wildstar, and more

    [...] Psychochild writes about the grind in MMOs, and particularly with reference to GW2. He ponders how things can turn from new/fun into dull grind from a player perspective and thinks about what Arenanet could to do perk things up. [...]

    Pingback by Welcome to Spinksville! — 10 February, 2013 @ 12:20 AM

  20. To me it's largely psychological. As long as your content is finite and repeatable, you're just talking about grind except for the %.0001 (?) of experimental games out there maybe. It's a matter of scale and what that content elicits in the player's mind. Myself, all things being equal, I prefer questing to grinding. Both tracks could be the same length in time and both are inherently repetitive, but one feels grindy and the other one doesn't. Why? I imagine because I -like- one more than the other. It colors my perspective from the get go.

    This holds until quests begin to fail to produce fun to me. Therefore, that veneer of fun evaporates and I see it for what it is: a repetitive activity I can longer get fun from. I see the naked grind that was always there.

    All games (particularly computer games, naturally bound by rigid math when you get down to it) are intrinsically repetitive. There's no way around it. But we do have many ways to dress this up and one of the best proven ones is to make that fun. And what is fun, and what is the common denominator of fun too all/most players? That's another full can of worms.

    Comment by Julian — 12 February, 2013 @ 6:45 PM

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